We have been thinking a lot lately about what school is really for. We’ve been travelling for a while and are still struggling to find our groove with school work. Which led us to think deeply about what we wanted school to do for our kids.
We have concluded that school should be about growing good little human beings. (Ok, I have come to that conclusion. Sean did nod though at some point, which may or may not have been to get me to stop talking about school. LOL.)
We want our kids to be engaged, curious, resourceful, respectful, compassionate, and open minded.
I’m not sure that’s the focus in the mainstream school system. Here are some of our thoughts:
- While education is clearly important, traditional school is only one pathway.
- Learning happens organically, particularly when you’re travelling.
- Exploring and playing makes learning easy and fun.
- Social and emotional development enables everything else to work better.
- Self-regulation is core to all learning environments. Everywhere. All the time.
- Memorising trivial facts for a test does not ensure life success.
Who says that learning geometry is more important than learning to surf? As far as I can tell, your phone can do any mathmatical equation within seconds. So Isn’t it better to learn a skill that will support your physical and mental health well into the future? Now our Distance Education school have taken their program fully online it’s just not accessable. The amount of work expected while travelling wasn’t realistic. Then the work itself was totally disconnected to the wonderful things we were seeing and learning organically.
Travelling and schooling on the road
One day we drove up to Lamington National Park. It was an incredible drive and when we got there, the kids we’re totally immersed in the environment. They learned about volcanos, the ice age, and native plants and animals. They climbed a tree ladder to the very top and discovered the history of a plane crash almost a hundred years ago and explored the replica plane. If I had to plan an excursion that was engaging, fun and brought learning to life, this would be it.
However,…. That wasn’t school for the day. “School” wanted us to put the children in front of a computer for another two hours, watch boring science videos and tick the box to say they had completed the work. That was the day we pulled the pin on distance education and we haven’t looked back.
It’s pushed us to investigate home-schooling and while there’s still structure, it seems there is a lot more freedom to build projects around the places we visit and the things the kids are really interested in. But most of all, it forced us to think deeply about what school is really for and what we wanted our children to achieve in our year (or so) away from home.
Our children, Laura (10) and Dylan (8) are good little people now. Don’t get me wrong, we all have our moments. But generally speaking, they are good students at school and certainly well respected and liked by their peers. (We have been taking a strength based appraoch to parenting for some time.) When thinking about our adventure and what we want the children to learn it wasn’t about fractions, nouns or the names of our previous Prime Ministers.
Here’s what we want school to do for our kids.
We want them to develop an open-minded approach to the people they meet and the places they visit. To become both curious and kind in how they interact with the world around them.
We want them to be compassionate and be able to put themselves in other peoples’ shoes. To empathise with others and be kind wherever possible…. And to learn that it is always possible.
We want them to try new things. Even if a little weird or bizarre, to just have a go, for the sake of having a go. To embrace learning, not just getting A’s on a test.
We want them to understand their own strengths and to build their confidence is a whole range of situations. To be proud of their achievements while being humble when learning new things and supporting others.
We want our kids to develop a deep and abiding appreciation for our planet and all it gives to us. To respect the environment and become advocates in their own way.
We want to teach them self-compassion. To learn to be kind to themselves when nothings going right and give themselves a break when they make mistakes.
We hope to instil in them a sense of gratitude for everything we have and to learn not to take things for granted. To be able to fully appreciate the moments we have together.
We want them to be able to manage difficult social situations and navigate big feelings like anger and sadness. Not to hide from them, but to accept them and make good choices despite them.
Most of all, we want them to become more curious, open minded and to find their own love of learning.
How it’s done in Denmark.
In Denmark, children don’t begin learning to read until the age of 7, yet they have some of the best educational outcomes around the world. Why? With an extra three years of play, these kids have learned to socialise well, to regulate their emotions more effectively and have become curious and ready to learn.
Talking to other travelling families, the one common concern is schooling our kids. I recently spoke to a Mum with a 4-year-old. They were given a full program they needed to follow that was taking around three hours a day and were told he should be reading and writing before he started school. No wonder us parents are stressed. I am not buying into it.
So, what is school really for? Well, our time schooling will be about building good little human beings. Kids that can function confidently with an open mind, a resourceful nature and a whole lot of resilience.
Schooling kids while travelling isn’t easy. There are good days, and there are some absolute shockers too. We have a long road ahead, both literally and figuratively speaking but it feels better now we know what we’re aiming for.
While travelling together, we hope to give our children schooling that will help them become good little human beings in years to come.